From The Archives: February 2010

Barrel O’ Links: Olympic Edition

Eleven offbeat revolutions around the short track oval:

  • Opening Ceremony Tatar-language We Are The Champions (YouTube)
  • Skier Julia Mancuso’s dad: ’80s marijuana mega-smuggler! (TahoeQuarterly)
  • Hip and square: dig those crazy curling pants (Yahoo)
  • After medalling silver, Plushenko awards himself platinum (HuffPo)
  • The Olympic Village desperately needs condoms! (CBC)
  • Shaun White’s “secret” back-country half-pipe (promo,recon,map)
  • Apolo Anton Ohno was once Chunky (RunnersWorld)
  • The Hurricane: a ski jump with three flips and five twists (LATimes)
  • Karma runs over Sven Kramer’s dogma (SFGate)
  • Why don’t figure skaters get dizzy? (Slate)
  • Canadians celebrating on Vancouver ice with Coors Light?! (Yahoo)

A Disturbance In The Force

McDonald's Versus The Competition

Imagine, if you will, the burger force – a field of energy that radiates from every freshly-cooked patty, earth-penetrating and inverse-squared with distance, compelling the hungry carnivore to seek out and devour the well-done ground beef at the source.

Now, wrap that concept in a Star Wars motif – set in the present day, with the second-tier burger chains as the rebels – each, by themselves, without mutual aid, battling the 12,000-plus restaurant McEmpire.  The situation is most dire, for the upstarts control but a few significant islands of territory amid the overwhelming and darkly-rendered influence of the McForce:

The territory controlled by the top 8 U.S. burger chains.

Territory controlled by the eight largest U.S. burger chains.

In this and the following graphic, each individual restaurant location has equal power.  The entity that controls each point casts the most aggregate burger force upon it, as calculated by the inverse-square law – kind of like a chart outlining the gravitational wells of galactic star clusters, but in an alternate, fast food universe.

By far, the largest pocket of resistance is Sonic Drive-In’s south-central stronghold: more than 900 restaurants packed into the state of Texas alone.  Sheer density is the key to victory!

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Mavericks 2010

The forecasts predicted a heavy swell and calm weather, so on went the green light for the annual competition at Mavericks, California’s most infamous and best-endowed surf break.  Come contest morning, Saturday, February 13th, 2010, the waves arrived, larger and smoother than expected, with clean faces up to fifty feet…

The conspicuous sign at the entrance to Mavericks Beach reads “Warning: Deadly Waves At Any Time,” and it’s not joking.  As the first heat began, a series of breakers washed into the nearby crowd, first a dribble and then four feet deep, sending the fortunate scurrying up the cliff, and the unlucky into the drink.  The gruesome tally: one broken leg, another busted ankle, dozens of complete soakings, and hundreds of pounds of innocent consumer electronics sent to a watery grave.  Good ’ol Neptune scored himself some boss new gear, y’all!

Thankfully, I avoided that chaos and, around noon, pointed my super-telephoto camera rig into the lineup from a much-more-relaxed position just off U.S. Highway 1, about two miles distant.  The resulting video, cropped tighter in post-production, is a mega-zoomed, telescope-style view of Mavericks: the tiny sliver of the scene near the horizon that, on-site with your arm fully extended, would have fit behind half of your pinkie fingernail.  For the photogeeks, that’s an equivalent focal length of about 4000mm.

Let’s take a look!  Onshore at bottom, we see the observation scaffolding, the aforementioned warning sign, and a competitor stretching on the breakwater that the ocean earlier crested.  Behind, there’s the action: one surfer paddling out stand up, others bobbing to and fro, and, near the end, an Incredible Display Of Ballsiness on the lip of a huge wave:

Mavericks Surf Contest 2010

Click here to see a slighter larger, higher quality version.  Apologies for the audio, which, in slightly raw fashion, accurately represents the afternoon breeze, ping of the harbor beacon, and two guys next to me yapping about Sean Connery.

Later in the day, a South African gentleman went on to win the contest.  Hey, they have some whopper waves there, too!

He Said, She Said

Words Men Use More Than Women And Vice Versa

For nine in ten of us, the most fundamental mystery of life is that of the Opposite Sex.

We’d like to understand, but it just doesn’t make sense!  Women wonder: what’s the story with the Ultimate Fighting and Star Trek, and why can’t he put the toilet seat down?  The men puzzle likewise.  Um, aromatherapy?  Greeting cards?  Why does she care what I do with the toilet seat?  And so on…

Yup, we don’t entirely get it – but keep trying we must!  Each hard-earned insight, no matter how tiny, could be the difference between, in feminine terms, a spiritual connection and crossed arms, or, in male-speak, nookie and the dog house.

So, with Valentine’s Day fast approaching, we rolled our combine into the ripe fields of the Internet Dot Com and harvested 14,000,000 words from over 2,000 randomly-selected weblogs – per their profiles, all stateside, half written by women and the rest by men.  Then, we fed them into the Corpusculator, our custom in-house suite of text analysis software.  For hours, it jittered and hummed, as if tenderizing meat and smashing atoms, then out popped two lists: one of words that ladies use more than gentlemen, and the other vice versa.

That night, we left a kettle of chamomile on the stove, set out a plate of snickerdoodles, put the words under our pillow, and slipped into slumber.  The next morning, lo and behold, the kettle was empty, the plate barren, and Glory Be!  The Data Fairy had come during the night and replaced the words with an infographic, entitled He Said, She Said: Words That Men Bloggers Use More Than Women, and Vice Versa:

He Said, She Said.  Click it to see the full-sized version!

He Said, She Said. Click it to see the full-sized version!

The Data Fairy left a note, explaining that she’d scaled each word by the degree of preference and omitted very common words (and, it, my, etc.) and contractions (I’ll, we’re, etc.).  She also noticed a seasonal bias: since we sampled the blogs on February 5th, the data reflects the psychology and events of the month or two beforehand, more or less.

From the lead off of love, the women’s words rollick past Christmas and then bounce about the warm, fuzzy territory of family, food, and fun.  They’re utterly heart-warming, like that classic second-season episode of Friends where Phoebe told Monica that she overheard Chandler say to Rachel that Ross had kissed Joey in the meat locker and hahaha hahah hah haha!  Clearly, if throwing a party, you’ll want to invite as many women as possible.

Quite honestly, I expected the men’s words to be just as entertaining: maybe a corny mix of sports phrases and beer terminology, or something of that genre.  Could I have been less right?  Witness a dry mélange of American politics, government, business, power, influence, and money, spritzled with the cardinal directions, counting numbers, place names, Biblical material, references to other men, and to top it all off, a smatterin’ of the fightin’ and the killin’ words.

As a whole, even to my masculine self, it’s so unyieldingly, analytically, megalomaniacally weird that I’ve gotta say:  Whoa.  Hold on a sec, guys.  Let’s take a few deep breaths, lighten up, and mellow out, lest we involuntarily commandeer a banana republic or something awful like that.

Yes, yes, I over-dramatize, but the men’s words really do read like the uptight offspring of a G8 meeting and the Dubuque City Council!

So, at this point, Dude Association Bylaws require me to inform Better Halves about how they might best achieve the aforementioned “Relaxation” of their Significant Others.  However, I cannot, for the DA recently revoked my advisor privileges because of an unfortunate misunderstanding: on February 7th, GenderAnalyzer.com reported that this blog is written by a woman!

GenderAnalysis's verdict.

The GenderAnalyzer's verdict.

As I’ve assured the Association, my behavior falls within the Safe Harbor carved out in Subsection 4.3.6(a):

Dudes may be female only on Halloween and/or within the privacy of their primary domicile.

I hope to prevail soon, and counsel advises me to refrain from any further comment.  Now, my lovely wife, do you know what happened to that size-24 black spandex mini?

More Steeps Of San Francisco

A New Steepest Street Is Born

24th Street on Potrero Hill

24th Street on Potrero Hill

Last November, as previously detailed, Weather Sealed searched San Francisco’s less-photogenic neighborhoods for under-appreciated inclines, rewrote the City’s “official” list of steepest streets, and discovered Prentiss Street, which, at a maximum grade of 37%, matches Pittsburgh’s Canton Avenue as the most-tilted urban thoroughfare in the world!

Afterwards, I boarded the couch for a well-deserved weekend in pro sports vacationland.  All the while, loose ends whispered in the wind, open leads nagged, and unexplored territory begged for attention.  With a tap of the volume button, I could drown them out, but…

Did George Washington dip his finger into the Delaware and whine “maybe I’ll come back when it’s warmer?”  Did, daily at noon, Rosie the Riveter betray her trusty gun for the factory masseuse?  Did Pee-wee shirk his Big Adventure under the duress of potato chips and beer?

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