Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Francis Would Be Proud

Every time it arrives, I think I'm going to resist it. But, what can I say? It's something that just ... happens. Every four years, I become obsessed with The Summer Olympics. Well, perhaps not obsessed, but I sure do enjoy watching the games. And "watching" is a whole different ball game for me these days. I don't have a TV. I haven't had one now for ... 472 days, 14 hours, 3 minutes and counting. I'm kidding, of course, I haven't really counted the days, but it is pretty close to that time span. The fact is, not having a TV hasn't exactly cut me off from the world. The computer has stepped right into that void and provided content and distraction whenever I've needed both.

The NBC Olympics website is great - they've figured how to make it work, let me tell you. And to think that, at any point, there are millions of folks from all over the world signing on to watch The Games - it's incredible. Of course, NBC has fixed it so the user can't watch most of the events live - they want folks to be tuning in to the network for those kinds of events. But I have been able to watch some things live. I think it was the US/China basketball game the other night - I was able to see that real-time. An impressive team this time around, I must say. It appears Coach K has them taking things pretty seriously.

My favorite moments so far have been watching the swimming races (the finals of each event) online. The links take you to to the day's scheduled events and when you see the "In Progress" link and click on it - you're taken to a page where you see the swimmers listed by lane and then ... they're off. The start time is listed on the first page and by looking at the comparative Beijing/US times in the upper left corner, I can know precisely when the races have started. And, so far, they've been running the races right at the scheduled times. I'm talking, to the minute. Then, once the race starts, it's just a matter of continually hitting the refresh button, watching the new times unfold on the screen (along with position, first, second, etc...) until ... it's over. They list all the splits, world and Olympics' record times and the like. It's great. The relay breakdowns are actually the best. The first time I watched a race this way, I was surprised at how excited I was getting just from looking at a bunch of numbers flashing across my screen. But, I have to tell you - it works. (e.g. - The "RACE" - photo above - you know the one I'm talking about - the men's freestyle relay - The Jason Lezak comeback win. The split numbers unfolding on the screen kind of freaked me out when I first saw them). I suppose I've been broken-in to some extent, because of the "no TV" thing. I've been watching baseball on's Gameday now for two or three years. I love it.

Once 12-24 hours has passed after an event, that's when NBC let's hold of its grip a bit and posts the videos on the site. By then, of course, I know the results and have read the articles, but it's still great to see the actual performances. And then, call me a sap, but I still love watching those medal ceremonies. Which brings me to my point (it took me what? About ten minutes to get here??)

Now, is it me or has anyone else out there noticed something about the American national anthem - the one they're playing at the swimming venue? Do you know what I'm talking about? I think that version of the "Star Spangled Banner" just may be the most beautiful version I've ever heard. I'm being serious about this. The combination of the strong brass arrangement with the soft, absolutely gorgeous string portion in the middle ... I have to tell you. It's brought tears to my eyes a few times already. And it's not like I'm Joe-Patriot or anything. Don't get me wrong - I love this country and don't take things for granted - I'm glad I was born and live here. But it's not like I'm tearing up every time I attend a Mets' or Royals' game and hear the anthem. This particular arrangement gets to me for some reason. And then, to see the looks on the faces of the athletes ... well ... I think Natalie Coughlin's gold medal ceremony the other night was one of the most touching things I've seen in a long time. It was just something about the way she was "feeling it" up there. It moved me.

Anyway, it's almost time for tonight's races. I have to get my fingers ready for a lot of clicking. By the way, I don't know how many of you have tried or even heard of "Wii" - my niece and nephew have turned me onto it, so we play whenever I visit them in Florida. Talking about getting one's fingers in shape - check out this video I found on YouTube. I thought it was hysterical - Extreme Wii Olympics 4X100 Relay

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Knowing Your Place

Okay, so it's not quite "Twilight Zone" material. Still, I had to laugh this morning when the following happened.

My newest favorite place to organize and write these days is The Roasterie, in a very nice section of Kansas City called Brookside. A nice change of pace from Starbuck's, The Roasterie is basically right up the street from me. So ... I went in this morning, knapsack over my shoulder, marched up to the counter, thought about what I felt like ordering and then ...

"Grande coffee."

And as soon as the words rolled off my tongue and out of my mouth, I started laughing.

Then, the apology.

"I can't believe I just said that," I told the man in front of the register. "That was a bit wild."

"It's okay," he smiled, "It happens more than you'd think.

Not to make a huge deal out of this, but think about that for a second. Well, you don't have to. I'll do it for you. The funny thing about this is that it took me literally years to get into the habit of talking in "Starbucks-speak" whenever I'd place my order at Starbuck's. I'd always have to glance at the overhead menu board, just to get the correct wording down. We all know the dangers of not saying the right words. Heaven forbid, to end up with a latte with soy milk when the target beverage is a cappuccino with 2%.

But this morning at The Roasterie, one of the anti-SB's types of places - a local place, you know, fighting back against the "Wal-Martization" of our culture, etc...., And here I was throwing Starbuck's right smack into their faces. Shame on me.

Luckily, they didn't throw me out of the place, onto my tush. They not only allowed me to stay, but they actually served me my "16 ounce" regular coffee with a smile. I like these people. I think I'll continue to go there and will simply think before I speak when it comes to ordering my coffee. It's crucial in today's day and age, to know your place. I won't make that mistake again.

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