Damned statistics

It seems that the facts of what happened depends on who you choose to tell you about them.

I typically check the CBC News site for the medal standings during the Olympics. Here are the final standings according to a screen capture I just made:

The official site at sochi2014.com tells a similar story:

But NBC has a different story to tell:

The source data is the same, but the presentation gives a different standing.

It’s interesting. I had a further look around and every site based in the United States ranks the medal standings on the total number of medals earned, giving themselves a better finishing position. Every site based in the United States, that is, save one. The exception is the Associated Press. Everywhere else in the world, gold medals determine the standings, with the silver and bronze used as tie-breakers. Each has advantages and disadvantages, and neither is right or wrong, but I look forward to the day when sorting by the total number of medals gives the United States a worse position in the standings. What will the American media do then? Do I really need to ask?

For the record, these were the sites I found that sorted the standings as NBC did: CBS News, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ESPN, Fox News, the Huffington Post (including the Canadian site), the NY Times, Sports illustrated, USA today, and the Washington Post.

This hearkens back to the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Donovan Bailey won the gold medal for the 100 metre race with a world record time of 9.84 seconds. The US media traditionally referred to the winner of the 100 metre race as the world’s fastest man. But Bailey is a Canadian! Can’t have that, right? Happily, Michael Johnson won the gold medal for the 200 metre race, and he is American, so the US media called him the worlds fastest man.

Being the country next door gives us remarkably easy access to American media, so this uniquely sorted medal standing is nothing new, but it does allow another insight into the American mind.

The Boss

Welcome to the latest addition to my Forza 5 garage, the 1969 Boss 302 Ford Mustang, in Spartan Assault livery. I’m just launching from the start line of the Top Gear test track in Dunsfold.

Isn’t she pretty?

To my great amusement, image capture within Forza 5 is far more ‘photographic’ than I ever expected. One uses the two thumbsticks to move around and toward or away from the vehicle. Straight-forward, right? What I wasn’t expecting is that one can also set the aperture and shutter-speed! These aren’t absolute values of proper f-stops and fractions of a second, but rather a slider of small/large and fast/slow, respectively. The reason absolute values are not required is because the exposure not coupled to the aperture and shutter speed. That is, you set the exposure with the exposure slider, the amount of motion-blur with the shutter speed slider, and the depth of field with the aperture slider. Totally bizarre, but very convenient!

CBC News Network, not cool

To my complete amazement, the CBC is starting to run teasers about the 2014 winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia. My goodness, the games are a year away! Yea, we’ve read that the CBC managed to get the broadcast rights, but are they planning a year’s worth of ads? Really?

Even if I weren’t annoyed enough at the Olympics to not want to see them at all, I’d still be annoyed at this jumping the ad gun.

The only bright side is that I’ve seen there ads only on the CBC News Network, so far. I don’t have cable, so while I’m at home, I won’t see these ads … until they start running on the main CBC television channels.

Sochi and Rio de Janeiro on the CBC

Listening to the radio on my way home yesterday, I heard the news that the CBC has acquired the Canadian broadcast rights to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, and the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was immediately excited.

Then I realized that I really don’t care.

The logo of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games is a trademark owned by the International Olympic Committee. It appears here in a nominative fair use capacity and I certainly make no claim to the mark, so don't sue me, you repugnant bastards!
The logo of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games is a trademark owned by the International Olympic Committee. It appears here in a nominative fair use capacity and I certainly make no claim to the mark, so don’t sue me, you repugnant bastards!

CTV has the rights to the London games and I haven’t watched any broadcast television since they’ve started. This is a definite change as I used to watch every moment of coverage that I could when I was younger. You’d think I’d be even more glued to the gorgeous high-def broadcast, but you’d be wrong.

This wasn’t something I’d planned. It was never a conscious thought. It’s just a matter of my growing more and more disenchanted with the Olympics over time. It’s come to the point where I’m utterly uninterested in watching any events. The furthest I go is looking at the medal standings when I open the CBC News page.

The games are big business. There was at least one corruption scandal involving the IOC itself. The Olympic organizers require special protections for far more than their trademarks in the host country, and they harshly enforcement these rules. They’re also draconian in their rules about social media and what the athletes can and can’t say using the medium. It should be about the sports and the athletes, but it doesn’t feel that way.

I have few good things to say about companies that forget customers are their customers and treat them as more of an annoyance, but I think the Olympics is certainly the worst in this regard. I respect and admire the athletes and their accomplishments, but I can no longer stomach the Olympic machine and its product.

Living in a launch platform

I’ve read about the security preparations for the London Olympics and one particular aspect that has piqued my interest is the MoD deployment of ground-to-air missile batteries in London. They can’t put them in the street, both for public safety, and because the surrounding buildings would severely limit their field of fire.

To address both problems, the MoD decided to put the batteries on the buildings. The Sun reported,

General Sir Nick Parker, in charge of the military’s Olympics role, said the security exercise would prepare for the possibility of “extreme threats”.

He said: “What we need to do is make sure we practise against those high-end threats but they are not considered to be likely.

“What I’m doing is testing my systems so I’m reassured that, should they become more likely, we can react.”

He added: “One would want the world to know that we are taking security for the Olympics seriously.”

I wonder if his last comment isn’t the key to the point behind the missiles. That is, to make sure everyone knows the UK is deadly serious about securing the games in the hopes that any groups thinking about causing trouble will decide not to bother.

I base my conclusion on two thoughts. My main thought is that the real world doesn’t work like the movies. When the explosives in a missile detonate near a flying aircraft, the end-product is not limited to a pretty explosion with crowds of people cheering because they’ve been saved. Rather, the missile explodes and if successful, the explosion renders the aircraft unable to fly. The fuel aboard the aircraft may explode, but the dry mass of the aircraft remains. Since it can no longer fly, it falls to the ground. Whether the bulk of the aircraft remains in one piece or breaks up, it’s coming down.

With some or all the missile batteries stationed within the city, it’s not impossible that a downed aircraft would fall into the city, causing who know how much damage. Both missile systems the MoD has deployed have 7 km ranges, increasing that possibility, in my opinion.

My other thought is regarding the buildings used for the missile batteries. The specific locations mentioned in news articles are either apartment buildings, or other structures in plain public view. One of the latter is a water-tower, for instance.

Surely the MoD isn’t so out of touch that they can’t imagine the inhabitants of these apartment buildings might have strong feelings about having their homes thrust to the front line in the defence against a possible terrorist attack. The residents were informed of their building’s new defence role in a flyer. According to The Sun,

It said the GBAD — Ground-Based Air Defence — weapons will be operated by “fully trained and experienced soldiers” and added: “Having a 24/7 armed forces and police presence will improve your security and will not make you a terrorist target.”

One has to wonder how they can be so certain that a group intent on an air attack wouldn’t think it prudent to deal with the defences they’re likely to meet.

It’s so ridiculous that I can’t help but believe the military wants this splashed all over the news in the hopes that it will scare off potential attackers, or that the publicised missile launchers are no-where near to total number that will be used in London’s defence. Below is a photo of a mobile Rapier missile launcher. It looks no larger than a small U-Haul trailer.


The newer Starstreak missile can be fired from a similarly sized launcher or a portable launcher that MoD personnel can carry into the field.

How will this all work out? We’ll have to wait and see.

Rapier launcher photo by Wikipedia user Desmoh, used under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.